After his time playing basketball for Lewis & Clark came to an end, Zeke Crawford ’20 is continuing his career overseas. This fall, Crawford began playing professionally in the Switzerland National League Basketball for the Goldcoast Wallabies.
Crawford is from San Francisco where basketball was a major aspect of his life growing up. Following in the footsteps of his father and sisters, Crawford has been playing basketball for as long as he can remember. He played for his school teams and jumped at the opportunity to play in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) where basketball was offered year-round.
During his career at LC, Crawford played in a total of 92 games averaging 10.9 points per game, 1.4 blocks per game and 7.0 rebounds per game for the Pioneers. Crawford was also one of few Pios to break the 1,000 career points threshold. He also broke LC’s record for most blocks at 131, and his senior year he was 15th in the nation for blocks with 59 total, shattering the previous LC record.
Crawford decided to attend LC due to the atmosphere the city had to offer. According to Crawford, there was a similarity between Portland and San Francisco that made him feel at home. However, there was a nature aspect to Portland that he had yet to experience, but hoped to explore during his time at the college.
Despite graduating LC, Crawford has stayed in touch with many of the players on the team, as well as Head Men’s Basketball Coach Tim McCrory.
“During my time between beginning to play overseas and (graduating from) Lewis & Clark, I was working closely with Coach Tim,” Crawford said. “He was still putting me through workouts, still giving me tidbits of advice on what to expect, what to do and how to prepare. (I am) definitely still staying in contact with the guys as well, (and) giving them any advice they ask for, and words of encouragement. Whenever the guys are playing, I always tune into the games.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly cutting his senior year short in 2020, Crawford was unsure of the next steps after college. Many of the opportunities to play overseas were unavailable due to travel restrictions. However, Crawford continuously trained and sent out highlight films to different coaches. He then received a reply from an agency in Switzerland, the Goldcoast Wallabies.
“A lot of the opportunities that would have been available coming out of graduation were just completely gone, so within that time I had to continue to train, continue to stay ready in case any opportunity did come,” Crawford said. “A couple of my friends helped me send out a bunch of highlight film, an agency (then) came back to me with an opportunity in Switzerland, and said ‘how fast can you get to Switzerland?’”
Crawford’s perspective on playing basketball after college shifted during his time at LC, when he realized that there were several ways to nourish his passion for basketball, and that there were a number of opportunities outside of the United States that would allow him to do so.
“I realized that there was a different world of basketball, that the NBA isn’t the end-all be-all,” Crawford said. “As I got to college, the dream shifted for me (when I) realized playing basketball overseas was a real opportunity where I could kill two birds with one stone: play the sport that I love and travel the world.”
Since moving in the middle of October, Crawford has had a smooth transition to life in Switzerland. His roommates, all of which are his teammates, have helped him adjust to the new transportation style, get a sense of the area and confront language barriers. Crawford viewed these culture shocks as new challenges and ways to grow.
While many differences exist in the day-to-day life in Switzerland compared to Oregon, there are also differences within the style of basketball.
“The biggest difference is just the physicality,” Crawford said. “It’s not the same type of fouls, not the same type of boxing out, the physicality is just on a higher level. Adjusting to that was something that was a little bit of a shocker to my initial game. Now that I am kind of settled a little bit, I am getting used to it.”
Crawford seems to be quickly adjusting to the style of play overseas. Starting at center, he is averaging 19.5 points per game, which is fourth in the league, and 12.8 rebounds per game which is second in the league. Crawford is also averaging 2.8 blocks per game.
Looking back at his time at LC, Crawford was grateful for the contributions the college has given him.
“I owe everything to LC, especially when it comes to basketball,” Crawford said. “I text Coach Tim now to tell him that the drills that we did are seamlessly translating over to what I do and what I see in the games. (I have taken) the leadership, the work ethic and the communication aspect from LC and applied them here.”
Crawford is officially a Pio in the “pros” and has a bright future in his career overseas. His regular season with the Wallabies will continue until March 26, 2022.